Album: Nitin Sawhney

Human, V2
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The Independent Culture

Childhood ghosts loom large on Nitin Sawhney's sixth album. As the child of Indian parents, brought up in Seventies London, the personal and the political have always gone hand in hand for this composer and one-time comic. "Say Hello" begins with an excerpt from a speech by Enoch Powell at the 1968 Conservative Party conference, a response to the racist bullying Sawhney suffered at school; "Promise" dwells on the materialist attitudes of the Eighties and opens with the voice of Margaret Thatcher delivering her "creation of wealth" speech. Along with the enduring social and political undercurrent, the mingling of divergent sounds and cultures has always been the key to Sawhney's music, and Human is no exception. "Eastern Eyes" sets the otherworldy vocals of the Anglo-Arabic singer Natacha Atlas against an infectious Brazilian club beat; "The River" is an unlikely blend of Southern gospel, slinky R&B and Indian chanting; "Rainfall", a song featuring the Stevie Wonder-esque vocals of Taio, is a nod to contemporary soul and R&B. Elsewhere you hear subtle shades of jazz and hip hop intertwined with the sounds of Indian classical flute, tablas, cellos and violins. The Sawhney regulars Tina Grace, Jayante Bose and Reena Bhardwaj are all present, adding exotic, ethereal textures to his meticulous arrangements. Perhaps the most unexpected contributor is Aqualung's Matt Hales, who lends his tremulous vocals to "Falling", a song about adolescent discovery. The personal subject matter makes Human feel Sawhney's most intimate and articulate album. It may be his best yet.